I am often asked, “How do I get my team members to take greater responsibility?” And usually this is followed by…“They’re driving me nuts and taking up too much of my time.”
There’s two parts to this. One is dealing with the major contributing factor to them not taking responsibility. And two is how to get them to take greater responsibility.
The major contributing factor to them not taking responsibility is… wait for it… you. Yes, you read that correctly. Usually the manager is the major contributing factor to team members not taking responsibility.
Let me explain, and you’ll see if this is familiar.
A team member comes to you (for whatever reason: they’re in a rush, they’re dealing with a difficult client, they aren’t performing well) for an answer. And being the great manager that you are, you supply the answer or give them the material they need. Wooo, you saved the day!
Or did you?
It’s possible that instead, you rescued them and started them on the path to being dependent on you for the answers. Harsh? It might be, on a small scale, but not if you are looking at the bigger picture.
In the bigger picture, you have just let your team member know they can get what they need from you rather than developing their own problem-solving skills. By supplying them with the answer, you’ve taken away an opportunity for them to develop their thinking skills in a specific situation.
This brings us to number two: instead of supplying answers, ask questions to help them find a solution to the problem so they can take greater responsibility.
I’ve discovered many team members actually know the answer and often come to you just to see if their solution makes sense.
By asking questions about how they might solve the problem, you help them with their thinking skills, discover what they actually know and get them taking greater responsibility for their actions. This way, they perform better even when you’re not around. And as a by-product, their self-confidence increases.
What kind of questions might you ask? Questions like:
“If I wasn't around, how would you handle the situation?”
“How would you want someone to handle it if you were the client?”
“Where were you thinking of looking for the answer?”
“If you had to choose right now what to do, how would you respond?”
“What do you think is missing from your idea?”
“Where might you find that missing information?”
“On a scale of one to ten, how certain are you that you have the correct policy information?”
”How can you double check on that in the resources available to you?”
When you are trying to help your team take greater responsibility, first look at what you might be doing to enable them. Then, look at what you can ask them to help them feel more confident in their ability to find answers themselves. They’ll start performing even better and you’ll find you have more time on your hands in the long run.